Rob Huff helps Rotek Racing to emphatic 25 Hours of Thunderhill victory
Rob Huff drove impeccably to help Rotek Racing to a commanding win in the 2013 United States Air Force (USAF) National Auto Sport Association (NASA) 25 Hours of Thunderhill in Willows, California (7-8 December).
The 25-hour ‘super-enduro’ – held at Thunderhill Park Raceway, just north of Sacramento – is regarded by many as one of the sternest challenges in North American motorsport, but Rotek Racing faced the task with vim and vigour to seal Audi’s maiden 25-hour race victory.
Huff was first to venture out onto the 4.83km-long Thunderhill Park Raceway in crisp, cold conditions – the Mercury hovered around the zero mark – on Thursday (5 December), quickly acquainting himself with the Californian venue and lapping consistently in the 1m43s bracket.
Both Kevin Gleason and Jeff Altenburg also ran solidly until the stunning Oakley Racewear and OCC LASIK-liveried TTRS succumbed to an electrical gremlin that was later cured with assistance from Audi Customer Racing.
ECU issues curtailed Rotek’s running on Friday (6 December) but, having worked through initial teething problems, the team felt set for the start of the 25-hour endurance race on Saturday (7 December).
With an eclectic entry of more than 80 cars all vying for space around Thunderhill’s high-speed confines – the track combines three blind crests and boasts an average speed of over 100mph – and an 80 per cent chance of snow on Saturday, traffic and the weather dominated conversation.
However, the predicted winter storms failed to materialise and Huff – the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Champion – completed the initial stint under clear blue skies, recording a best lap time of 1m45.491s on lap three and battling his way from ninth to first during the opening laps.
A straight-line deficiency was negated through the corners although exceptional fuel consumption was the TTRS’s best asset and allowed Rotek to run considerably longer between stops than its main rivals.
During his initial two-hour run, Huff was embroiled in a frenetic five-way fight with the Barrett Racing and TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entries, the Factory 48/Crowdstrike Radical SR3 and Team Quick Racing Products’ Superlite SLC, while carefully negotiating slower-moving traffic.
Gleason picked up the baton from Huff, with American tin-top stars Robb Holland, Jeff Altenburg and Roland Pritzker all completing remarkably consistent stints in sub-zero night time temperatures.
The going was tough and the competition gradually faltered; 57 competitors remained at the halfway mark.
Rotek Racing held second place for much of the night, until Team Quick Racing Products surrendered the lead with terminal steering problems during the 18th hour.
As the prototype contenders – originally regarded as Rotek’s stiffest opposition – fell out of contention, the GMG Racing 1 Audi R8 LMS emerged as a strong threat in the latter stages after a determined and persistent charge up the order.
But flawless performances from all five of Rotek’s top-line drivers helped the Nurburgring and Sonoma-based team draw out a 30-lap lead with three hours to run.
Huff completed a nail-biting final double stint and had the honour of bringing the dependable Audi TTRS across the finish line after 705 tours of Thunderhill Park Raceway.
Upon returning to jubilant scenes in pit lane, Huff said: “To win the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill in such fine style with a massive margin over the competition is just a phenomenal achievement that can’t be underestimated. It’s a real honour to have been involved in this remarkable feat, especially with such a great bunch of guys. While we had a few teething problems during practice and qualifying, the race ran like clockwork and the Audi TTRS was a dream to drive. It was a textbook endurance race and I loved every second of it! We don’t have to do anymore California dreamin’ now, because the victory is a reality!”
For more information on the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, please visit the official www.nasa25hour.com website.
And for more on Rob Huff's racing activities, please visit the official www.robhuff.com website, 'like' his Facebook page or follow @Huffsport on Twitter.